Hydrogen-powered UAV promises four day endurance


Boeing’s liquid hydrogen-powered Phantom Eye unmanned airborne system has completed its second flight, demonstrating capabilities allowing it to perform intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions for up to four days without refuelling.

During the flight, at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Centre at Edwards Air Force Base, the Phantom Eye climbed above the 2 400 m altitude mark and remained aloft for 66 minutes at a cruising speed of 115 km/h before landing. The aircraft exceeded what it achieved last year during its first flight when it flew at an altitude of 1 240m and remained aloft for 28 minutes.
“Today’s combination of geopolitical and economic issues makes Phantom Eye’s capabilities, affordability and flexibility attractive to our global customers. No other system holds the promise of offering on-demand, persistent ISR and communications to any region in the world, rapidly responding to natural disasters and national security issues,” said Darryl Davis, Boeing Phantom Works president.

Boeing is self-funding development of the environmentally responsible Phantom Eye, which generates only water as a by-product of its propulsion system.
“This flight, in a more demanding high-altitude flight envelope, successfully demonstrated Phantom Eye’s manoeuvrability, endurance and landing capabilities,” Phantom Eye programme manager, Drew Mallow, said.

Following the first flight, Boeing upgraded the aircraft’s software and hardware, including the landing gear. The upgrades paid off in the form of a picture-perfect landing.

The Phantom Eye demonstrator is capable of carrying a 200 kg payload while operating for up to four days at altitudes of up to 19 000 m, according to Boeing.